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The 1950s Controversy Over Grammar in Cigarette Ads.

Linguist Geoff Nunberg on the controversies of the 1950s over the grammar of commercials.


Other segments from the episode on January 12, 1998

Fresh Air with Terry Gross, January 12, 1998: Interview with Robert Redford; Commentary on grammar and commercials.


Date: JANUARY 12, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 011201np.217
Head: Robert Redford
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:06

TERRY GROSS, HOST: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Robert Redford is a movie star. Paradoxically, he is also the founder of the most important American showcase for independent films, the Sundance Film Festival. It's the place where new filmmakers get exposure and it's become the place where studios, producers and agents go in search of new talent.

The 1998 Sundance Festival begins Thursday, and Robert Redford is going to talk with us about the festival, its place in the movie world, and in his life.

Redford is the star of such films as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," "The Sting," "The Candidate," "The Way We Were," "All the President's Men," and "Up Close and Personal." He directed "Ordinary People," "A River Runs Through It," and "Quiz Show." When we recorded the interview last week, Redford was in the editing room working on his next feature, an adaptation of the bestseller "The Horse Whisperer." It's Redford's first film in which he both directs and stars.

I asked him why, since he is a movie star, he wanted to create an independent film festival.

ROBERT REDFORD, ACTOR, DIRECTOR, AND FOUNDER OF SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL: It began with, I suspect, wanting to put something back. I'd had quite a strong decade of filmmaking. It was a lot of hard work, but fruitful work. And I got to the end of that decade and I decided that my age, which was 40, and the decade of complete work suggested that maybe I might stop so that you don't get stuck. And I thought: what can I do?

And I wanted to put something back because I think the idea's a good one. And so, that's what I focused on -- independent film -- because it seemed to me that there was an opportunity there to create a mechanism for new artists, new stories, new voices. That was very appealing to me. And then it kind of broadened as new opportunity emerged, which was the kind of explosion of video and cable right around the same time. This is 1979 maybe.

And with that explosion, coupled with the narrowing of what was going on in the mainstream part of my industry, which was a narrowing and a centralization -- higher costs, more formulaic films, films more reliant on special effects -- you know, what not. What that did was squeeze out a certain area that I thought I was healthy, which was diversity.

So that seemed to be a niche right there that could be filled. And so that's really how it -- how it began.

GROSS: When you were getting started as an actor, did you have an obvious way to get a foothold? I mean, now a lot of people start an independent film and they start small and they start with very low budgets. Some films are made on people's credit cards, and they hope that they can get it screened at Sundance and get some attention there. There wasn't really quite an equivalent when you were getting started.

REDFORD: No, there wasn't. The condition has changed. When I was beginning as an actor, which really goes back to 1959 -- I began in the theater in New York. In those days, what you had was sort of a plethora of people wanting to -- wanting to act; wanting to -- what could they do to get in a movie? What could be done to get in a movie?

In those days, there was really only basically one way, one route into film, which was by way of craft. You developed your craft through theater, through television. Those were the days when live television was still strong, about to be phased out for film television. But that was really the condition, the so-called "formula."

Now, that's changed. The question no longer is: what can I do to get in a movie? But what can I do to make one? And I think that's probably a result of the, oh, the growth and development of video and access to film that people have that they didn't have in the old days. But no question about it, the -- you know that old expression of Jimmy Durante -- "Everybody wants to get into the act?" It seems like everybody wants to make a film these days and I think it's because there's such access to film that didn't exist before.

GROSS: What were your initial goals with the Sundance Film Festival?

REDFORD: Well, first of all, maybe it should begin a little bit with what Sundance is because, you know, behind the festival -- the festival is just a part of the overall concept of Sundance at large. Sundance basically is a place. It's a retreat where stories can find themselves, rather than being reduced down to a commercial motivation. So, that was -- that's sort of the place it is. It's a community for artists.

And then with that success came a new opportunity, which was there -- as the exhibition increased, as the volume increased, there was no commensurate capability for -- for places for the films to be seen. So we went into distribution with cable television. That -- see, because there was a sort of a starve-out in the marketplace. There were not enough places for those films to go be exhibited, so very often they were either reduced to going directly to video or they never got distribution at all.

And seeing them in the festival, I could see this is unfortunate because these filmmakers are talented. They need support. And these films, some of them are really quite good and I think audiences would respond to them if they could get them. But they didn't -- they weren't getting them because of the collusion that existed at that time in the marketplace between exhibition and distribution; meaning the studio system.

I didn't have that much interest in television, but I felt that cable was a new possibility for distribution. And now -- now there's a new one which is Sundance Theater chain for independent film, which goes much more in the direction of film as a cultural experience, rather than just a profit-margin experience.

GROSS: You're opening theaters now. How do you want your Sundance movie theaters to be different from your average multiplex?

REDFORD: To be -- to be more of a cultural experience. In other -- what is the issues dealing with the literature of film; a broader experience of viewing film that could be incorporated into a library concept and an eating -- I don't mean a dining restaurant. I mean just a place -- I was -- I think, you know, you look back on your life land you look at areas where you were impacted heavily by one thing or another.

And for me, there were two very strong cultural hits in my life that probably in some way informed what I was to do after, which was the beat poetry and jazz. I just happened to come on the scene as a young teenager in California at the moment those two movements were coincidental.

And I was very, very hit by them. I became a tremendous lover of jazz. But this is early '50s when I actually could go see Terry Mulligan (ph) and Chet Baker (ph) and Hampton Hawes (ph) and Red Mitchell and people like that. At the same time, I stumbled into a -- a bookstore once in San Francisco with kind of a rag-tag bunch reading poetry. It didn't make a whole lot of sense to me, and yet it made all the sense in the world because one thing I knew was that it was different. It was new and it was -- something electric about it and it affected me a lot.

So I think years later as I go to do these things, that what I'm probably interested in is -- has been informed by that early experience. So that going in -- rather than what's going on in the marketplace right now with these multiplexes, which can be a kind of numbing experience with very little identification for what it is you're there for. You're just, you know, ushered in and get the popcorn and ushered out so the next mob can come in.

Rather than that, have a condition where people can go in and sort of sink into the experience of what film is. And of course, film is not just main features. It's documentaries. I happen to be a big supporter of documentaries; short subjects. You think about short films like a four minute film of Charles Eames (ph), "The Powers of Ten." That's as good a-film as I know of. And then you think of animation and different kinds of animation, and all the new work that's going to be coming that we exhibit at the festival.

You want to be able to -- to make that accessible to audiences because I believe that the consumer's pretty well starved in the area of film. They don't -- they don't get it as much as a cultural experience, maybe as I did as a kid. You know, when you go to the -- even though I had to go to these Saturday afternoon matinee things, mostly to be got rid of for a few hours -- but there was, you know, double features and cartoons and serials and news. And it was therefore much more of a cultural experience than films are today. It's -- we live too close to the profit margin, I think.

GROSS: So how is this going to translate into things like what kind of seats you'll have in the theaters; the size of the screens; the size of the theater itself?

REDFORD: Well, that's in the -- it's in the developing process at the moment, but I -- I would hope, or what I hope for, is that we will have varied screens; that there will not be that uniformity that you get at the moment. With the kind of merging climate that's going on out there in the corporate world, it's certainly spilling over into the -- into cultural experiences so that you don't -- you're not given many options. There's no individuation in what you go through.

So that one theater might be just 40 seats, and that might show more experimental work; more film that -- you know, one man's meat's another men's poison. It might not be for everybody, but there it is. It's -- it's an exhibition of a kind of work that will be available to some people that won't be appreciated by others. But the other theaters will have more seats and it will range to a more commercial venture with maybe 400 seats, down to smaller, you know, sort of sectioned-out spaces. That's what I would hope.

GROSS: My guest is Robert Redford. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

Robert Redford is my guest, and the Sundance Film Festival is about to get started. It gets started later this week.

I'm interested in hearing more about beat poetry and jazz.

REDFORD: Really?

GROSS: When you were a young man -- yeah. So did you ever play -- yourself? Did you ever play an instrument?

REDFORD: No, no I didn't. I was from a musical family, oddly enough, but we were so poor when I was a kid that my -- there's a guy that came through the neighborhood -- I'll never forget. And he was offering free guitar lessons. You know, he'd give you one free guitar lesson, and if you liked it, then you could go on. You'd pay for it. And I was desperate. I just wanted it so badly.

And my dad heard that this guy had come through. He said "no way. Don't trust anybody that's offering it for free; no such thing as a free lunch." And that was the end of that. So I never went down that road -- sadly, 'cause I love music.

And jazz just happened to come to me, oh -- well, naturally because West Coast jazz was just happening at that moment. And those -- those guys, you know ...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

REDFORD: ... Greg Mulligan and some of the other musicians were musicians that -- there was this sort of exodus from the east because they felt the big bands had run dry and that there wasn't any place for them to go with their new ideas and new concepts, so they kind of gathered out on the West Coast.

And there were places that existed then that were really wonderful. There was a place in Long Beach, right on the sand, called "Howard Rumsey's (ph) Lighthouse." And there was the place that I used to go to, and the only way I could get in there -- I was taken there by an older woman who was 20. And I was just 15. At 15, of course, I was riding high because I was not only going in illegally, but I was going in with an older woman which made me feel like really big stuff.

And we went to a place called "The Hague" (ph). It was a tiny little, kind of a dive -- looked like a sunken foundation in this big lawn across from the Ambassador Hotel. And I remember her taking me in there in 1952, I guess it was -- '53. And it was just tiny -- as big as a living room. And there was Mulligan and Baker and these other guys. And they were just coming out with a sound that was so different, and it just went through me. It just went right through me.

And I was just transfixed. And so, I hooked into something that was just starting, and I think that association gave me some, you know -- added to my passion about it, because I felt that I was part of something new.

And the same with the beat -- the beat poetry. I had no idea what was going on. I didn't know who any of these people were -- Kenneth Rexroth and Ike McCoor (ph) and Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsburg. I just remember these were guys who made a lot of noise, you know. And I thought I was going into a jazz place, and instead it was City Lights in San Francisco.

GROSS: The bookstore.

REDFORD: Yeah, and Ferlinghetti's (ph) place. And so I didn't know what was going on. I just stumbled in there looking for jazz and was about to leave because I thought "oops, wrong." And then there was this stuff going on that was just different. And you could feel it. You know, you can feel it when you're in the presence of something new -- a new voice, a new idea. And, it becomes a real hook.

So I stayed and was very, very taken with it because for me it was -- somehow, I mean, I was not a -- I guess I was more a -- quite a maverick kid. I didn't -- I was not drawn to convention and I was bothered by the conventions I was forced to live in -- in that kind of Republican environment in Southern California where everything was perfect -- the sun always shone. And there was something missing from me that I found in these two movements.

GROSS: You know, when you're talking about jazz and beat poetry in the 1950s, I think there's, you know, at least two things that they embodied for people. One was just the -- the art itself -- you know, the music and the poetry themselves. But the other was the lifestyle of these really interesting people who were making that art. I mean, they were hipsters. They were bohemians.

And what spoke to you about that? Did you -- did they give you ideas about a different kind of life that you could live?

REDFORD: Well yes. The essential ingredient for me was freedom. I mean, you -- you were living in an atmosphere of post-war -- post-war atmosphere. There was a big boom going on. You know, there was an economic boom. I don't know that the economic history of this country has ever known the strength of that time, the '50s.

And as a result, there was huge -- you know how money protects itself -- with rules. And mores even come out of money to make sure you hold onto it and protect it and keep it. And so that was going on. And I was repulsed by that. I just wanted desperately to get out. I didn't want to be in Los Angeles. I didn't want to be in my house. It wasn't for lack of love or anything like that, it's just -- I just didn't want to be there. I wanted to be somewhere else where something else was happening.

And so, the lifestyle of being on the road, or being free -- free-wheeling -- was enormously appealing to me because it meant that I would have some license. If I hooked into that, there would be some license there to break the rules, which was very appealing to me.

GROSS: So, how did that translate into acting?

REDFORD: The translation probably was that as an actor I was drawn to the freedom that acting can provide -- the freedom of expression which is physical. It's essentially physical, as opposed to drawing or writing. That to be activating all parts of your body and senses was appealing to me; and to keep it free, because there is a freedom in acting, along with the discipline.

So, it was kind of a natural evolution. But I didn't start as an actor. I started as an artist. That's...

GROSS: As a painter.

REDFORD: ... when my life began; yeah.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. So, OK, now I'm going to take you back to Sundance.

REDFORD: Oh that.


Yeah, what a step down.


GROSS: No, so getting back to Sundance and this whole sense of, you know, of, you know, an alternative film world; an independent film world. It seems to me the whole sense of what independent film means has changed since you started the festival. I mean, the festival started in '81 and now...

REDFORD: No, the festival started -- I might correct you on that -- the festival -- the institute started in '81, but the festival actually didn't get going until '87.


REDFORD: The -- what happened was that when I started Sundance, it was -- it's a nonprofit organization that was started -- that we began the idea in 1979, but it didn't open the first lab until 1981, and that was a lab for the development of new artists and their material.

They would bring their material to the physical place of Sundance in the mountains, and a group of resource people who were experienced in the business would work with them to help them develop all aspects of filmmaking, which was -- beginning with writing, which I think is the most important; and then obviously acting, which I think is right up there because I am an actor; and then right on through to direction, lighting, and editing.

So, the idea was to bring these filmmakers there with their new material and help them develop it so that they could go into the marketplace and have a better chance of succeeding. And that the marketplace would benefit from it, because it would be fattened by the new entries of film.

So that was just -- but that was nonprofit. Nobody really knew we existed except the filmmakers themselves that came through. And -- like I remember we developed "El Norte" there and that was the first film that kind of broke through our development lab and got actually made. The first few years, very few films got made because the -- the experience level and the skill level was quite down.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

REDFORD: And then in 1986, I had the opportunity to -- I was asked to take over a festival, or to help a festival that was sinking in -- and I did -- was not that big a fan of festivals, quite frankly, because they seemed -- it was kind of like eating cotton candy, you know, it was gone before you knew it; the experience -- it didn't have any action on the back end of it, so that didn't interest me.

And yet this idea -- notion presented itself, and I said well why don't you make it an independent film festival. Then at least you have a niche that's yours 'cause it doesn't exist anywhere. Well, no, they were afraid of that because nobody was that interested in independent film. It was not much supported beyond the National Endowment of the Arts or the Humanities. And so, there was not a lot of interest in it.

And I believed that it was a -- there was a real future for independent film. And partially because of my own interest in independent filmmaking -- you know, the films that I had been able to make, I was very drawn to that. And so it finally ended with people saying "well, please help us 'cause this festival is losing too much money." And I said: "no, I don't believe in the festival as it stands, but I would if it were independent film. Therefore I'll take it, but only if I can completely take it over and redo it." And so, that's how it started.

And so we began very -- I mean, you know, the festival is 10 years old now, and started on a shoestring where nobody thought there was any future in it, let alone profit. So there was no real support and it was a struggle the first few years, but we did it because of that commitment to independent film and the belief that there was an audience for it.

And so, that's really how that started. And then about three or four years into it, things started to move and we began as a -- as a festival. And it was not really intended to be a market because I didn't want a market mentality that, you know, would have somebody rushing to judgment to make a buy -- you know, that -- like a sort of stock market fever which now exists at the festival. Unfortunately, there's something that sort of intruded on the festival; not a lot we can do about it.

As the festival has -- has sort of transformed from -- from festival to market largely because of success and fashion that comes right behind success, we really can't control a kind of fever that hits the streets there. And it's -- what's unfortunate about it is it's got very little to do with the art of film or the point of film showing new ideas. It's really a market mentality that sort of invaded the streets there that would have somebody only look at a movie for 15 minutes and then rushing out with their cellphones to make a call, pretty much like a stock market trader.

And we didn't want that. We just wanted a festival that would offer a showcase for filmmakers when one didn't exist, and hopefully there would be a communal -- there would be gathering of artists and we'd share new ideas; or it would be a kind of communal experience there. And then the thing kind of exploded into this whole other thing that suddenly you have to grab the reins and hold it back as much as move it.

GROSS: Robert Redford. Later, we'll talk more about the Sundance Film Festival which begins Thursday.

I'm Terry Gross and this is FRESH AIR.

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross.

Back with more of our interview with Robert Redford. We're talking about the Sundance Film Festival, which he founded. The 1998 festival begins Thursday.

The festival has become very successful as a place for exhibition and as a market where studios, as well as big-name producers and agents, go to shop for new talent.

You know, it strikes me as a mixed blessing in a way that this, as you put it, "stock market mentality" has all become such a part of Sundance. On the one hand, I think one of the reasons why independent filmmakers want their films shown at Sundance is because they stand a chance of landing a distribution deal or of getting a top agent or, you know, having producers wanting to work with them.

On the other hand, it also means that, you know, like Hollywood is there ready to snatch up all the young new talent and kind of take them to a place where they can't any longer follow whatever eccentric vision they might have had.

REDFORD: Well, that's right. I think -- I think one of the features of this year's festival, if I might advance that, I don't know -- it's probably a good idea to talk too much about it, rather than let people have the experience of discovery. But I will say that since we're -- we've always been and always will be committed to the filmmaker -- meaning, the filmmaker's ideas, visions, that particular voice.

What happens from that is another matter. But that as the -- as the festival goes, it's an evolutionary process and, you know, with sometimes revolutionary films. And that's really what we're committed to, is that -- the idea that things will change; the climate will change. I mean, the climate has changed enormously since we started this thing because first of all, the quality of independent film has increased; the population of the independent film world, in terms of production, has increased.

And as a result, you see more polished work. You see independent work that is moving much more towards the mainstream in its look and feel. So, you say: "well, is that a sign of the times?" Yes, I suspect it is because, you know, a lot of independent filmmakers, you scratch the surface and not too far underneath it is somebody that's yearning to be in the mainstream.

And so they should be accommodated, and there's nothing wrong with that. But the -- the more interesting aspects of it, which are the edgier, more innovative work, are still there. I mean, that I can -- I can say that this year's going to have some really interesting work because it's got a new twist.

There's a film, for example, called "Pie" that's a science -- sci/fi film without special effects. Just that alone is a novelty and, you know, without commenting on its merits, I would just use that as an example. There are more documentary films this year. This year we have more of the well-known documentary filmmakers in exhibition gathered together than anywhere. You've got Barbara Koppel (ph); you've got Kenneth Burns. You know, you have Penelope Sterish (ph). You've got Michael Moore. I mean, they're all there together, and the documentary division this year is exploding. I mean, it's just amazing.

But the thing changes. I remember the most exciting thing to me was three -- about three years ago, we -- the festival moved film past a stumbling point, which was up to that point, films were very -- very often ident -- independent films -- were very often identified by gender, by race, by class. And so it was a "women's" film; a "gay/lesbian" film; a "black" film.

And there was this wonderful moment about three years ago when we broke through that, and it was no longer identified by gender, race, or class. It was the filmmaker and the idea. And that was a -- a beautiful moment. And that now is set.

GROSS: You know, we were talking before about how you started acting. One of the things that the Sundance Institute does is laboratories and workshops for filmmakers and actors and (unintelligible) theater and so on. Did you have anything like that in your life? I know you went to college, I think on a baseball scholarship. And I think you dropped out of college and then went into acting. So I'm not even sure that you, you know, had a -- like a formal workshop or university setting to study acting in.

REDFORD: I didn't, and that's part of the reason I think I was drawn to it. I was always drawn to the idea of community. I've always appreciated education, but I never was drawn to the kind of education I got. I was always -- I was not good in a classroom. I was not good in a restricted -- too much of an institutionalized environment. My education really didn't begin until I got out and moved into the streets and around -- around the world. That's when I felt I began to really learn and to grow.

It's not that one couldn't gain from classroom environment. I think absolutely you can. It's just, for me personally, I learned more once I got out. So moving out, I was -- you know, I was very young. I was only 18.

I was drawn to -- was drawn to the community that had existed in time, like in Paris in the '20s. The artists that were kind of bonded together in a communal way in the '20s was enormously appealing to me. And the beat movement that we described was enormously appealing to me 'cause there was a camaraderie in the irreverence and in the free-wheeling. I found that enormously appealing.

But it didn't exist for me since every time I would get attached to something, it would dissolve. It was like -- was sort of like eating Jello. You know, you -- I got into art at just the time most of the art movements were disappearing, except for the Bay Area artists. There was a tremendous movement with expressionism in the Bay Area with Devon Corn (ph) and people like that. But I wasn't attached to that because I went to New York. My dream was to be in New York City and I don't regret that one bit, but I went by way of Europe from California.

So I was drawn to community wherever it existed. Then when I got into theater -- unfortunately, just as I got into the theater, that community that existed in live television collapsed and gave way to film television which moved the television industry to California. So that was the end of that. And I got in just at the end of live television.

And then in the theater, when I got into the theater, there was Inge, Williams, Miller. There were all these playwrights -- I mean, it was incredible; Paddy Chayevsky (ph). I mean, there were -- they were all working at the same time on Broadway just as I entered the Broadway scene. That gave way to the revolution that came in the '60s.

And so pretty soon, writing gave way to screaming -- kind of primal screams on the stage and special effects. And the next thing you knew, you had amplification and you had smoke and you had, you know, you were like in an amusement park rather than a theater where the human energy was all.

So that gave way. And then when I got into film, that was going in a different direction. There was no film community, because whatever existed was the studio system -- not that that was great, but there was a sense of community with a stable system in the studios. That had gone.

So wherever I went, it's like things were evaporating in terms of any kind of community. And I really missed it. I love the feeling of it, so I decided to try to create one on my own.

GROSS: I would imagine paradoxically that now that you've created this really successful community at Sundance, that you might be somewhat removed from that community by virtue of being Robert Redford. You know, a lot of people come there who are new and learning their craft and trying to get established, and you're the already established star of the place. You're the creator of the place.

REDFORD: Yeah, there's irony there, if not paradox. That's for sure. That's a sort of a strange feeling. One of the nice -- I love being there when the labs are on because by taking two elements out of the process -- competition and money -- you'd be amazed at what that does for the work condition.

And it really is, if I do say so myself, it's really exciting to be there during the time the artists are there working, because the freedom and the camaraderie that exists; the sharing that exists; the challenging; the debates that go on -- are all healthy and strong and full of passion. It's exhausting in a wonderful way.

And so that, to me, is -- was a success; that creating a community there for artists to come and work and share with each other was what I was missing in my life. And the irony is that it is not so easy to plug into it because you have people kind of staring at you with a different expression.

GROSS: So in some ways you still don't have that community quite, huh?

REDFORD: Well, not quite as much as I might like if I was, you know, maybe more anonymous. But that's OK. I still love it and I -- I get a lot from it. And that's just nature of the beast, I guess.

GROSS: My guest is Robert Redford. We'll talk more after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

Back with Robert Redford. The Sundance Film Festival which he founded begins Thursday.

I think you first bought land in Utah, just a couple of acres of it, all the way back in 1961, which is the very start of your career. I think it was right after your very first Broadway show. Why did you buy land in Utah then?

REDFORD: Well, because it was the least known about. I mean, I knew that I -- my life was probably going to be in an urban environment of either New York or Los Angeles, and I wanted an alternative. I grew up with a real appreciation of the outdoors and being a pretty physical person. I needed it.

And so I wanted a place that would be an alternative to urban, kind of intense living. And so, where was I gonna go? And of all the states, I chose the state that in 1959, '60 was the least known about. It was essentially a state controlled by the Mormon culture and there was a lot of misunderstandings about the Mormons and so on.

And for me, I had passed through Utah driving back and forth from Colorado to Los Angeles the short time I went to school. And I though: "whoa, what do we have here? This is an extraordinary state."

And I began to explore it on the drives. I would go south -- take southern routes, northern routes and wander and meander and get out and hike around. And I said: "you know, this is -- nobody knows much about this state, but it's really quite stunning." And Colorado's already getting on the drawing boards, and which is the place where you might think if you wanted to go into the mountains you would go.

But somehow Utah had enormous appeal, partly because of what was not known about it. I thought I had a better chance of starting something fresh there. I didn't have any money. I would have to start humbly and it was probably a good place to start. And so I did.

GROSS: Sundance if of course named after your character in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, your 1969 film. What was the impact of that film on your life and on your career?

REDFORD: Before that, I had a certain freedom that I lost. You know, there's a danger, I think -- if you're conscious; if you're paying attention -- that with a kind of success that you began to be treated like an object. And maybe some people want that. Maybe that's the end-game for some people.

But it wasn't for me because it was going to deprive me of the ability to observe. If I was being observed as an object, then it was less likely I was going to be able to look back and see somebody in a real way. And that would be a danger.

And then, you move to the next stage of that, which is you begin to behave like one. You have no course and no recourse. I mean, if you -- for example, if you surround yourself with too much protection to guard against the assault from the outside that it's full of such distortion, then the danger that comes from that is you become insulated to the point of losing your sense of reality. And you begin to behave like the very thing that people are viewing you as. And then the third, I think, and final death knell is you become one.

So that was always something that I was on guard against, and kind of moved through my life wary of it; you know, tried to -- tried to avoid ever getting sucked into that place. But I think that particular film put me into a new place that was extremely difficult in the beginning, 'cause I had a lot of balancing to do and I had a lot of soul-searching to do. And it was a struggle for a while.

GROSS: What was the soul-searching about? That might be too personal, in which case...

REDFORD: How honest you can be with it; how really honest you were going to be with it. You know, a lot of people like to be falsely humble and say "oh, I don't like all this attention; I don't like this and that." And then, truth is they want it desperately.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

REDFORD: And so, it's a lie. And I wanted to look real hard at that. I thought, well, I've ended up in this place. This is something I basically maybe really wanted. Or did you just come on me? And I need to get -- I need to get in touch with that and understand what that's really about, otherwise I'll go way off the track.

So, that was where the struggle came. I had to -- I had to identify what part of it I really did like and be able to be honest about it and say "this feels good." And then separate out from the part that didn't -- that was going to be destructive or dangerous. That took a while.

GROSS: Did Paul Newman, who was your co-star in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid -- did he give you any advice on handling this new celebrity?

REDFORD: Yeah, he did. He says the best thing you could do would be to have a mind like mine, which is essentially empty.


GROSS: What does that mean?

REDFORD: And that way you'll get -- you'll survive forever. You know, you forget things; you don't -- you forget where you are; what time it is. That's the way you survive in this business. And I've really tried to follow him. He's done a beautiful job setting an example.

GROSS: Huh. So tell me why you named...

REDFORD: No, he just -- Paul had -- Paul had a real strong value system built in, and I saw his struggle that he was I think quite successful with.

GROSS: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

REDFORD: So in a way, Paul did set something of an example. I think it's one of the reasons we got along well is that we both had little use for a lot of the things that other people place a high value on.

GROSS: Since it seems like you were somewhat ambivalent about all the success that Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid brought to you, why did you want to name Sundance after your character Sundance?

REDFORD: Well, this is weird, but I didn't. It's hard to...

GROSS: You didn't?

REDFORD: ... to say that because I don't think anybody believes it, but it's true. I did not want to name it Sundance. I was overruled. When I started Sundance, I had four partners, which dissolved within a year when I realized that they were really only interested in Sundance as a real estate venture, and I was interested in it as a more of a preservation project.

Once they realized that I was going to resist building hotels and developing the land, I think they just freaked out, and so backed their interest to me. As -- but when it was starting and I had the four other partners, we were getting into the venture and buying this land from a sheepherder in Utah, there was the discussion of a name. And I was making the film. I was in the process of making Butch Cassidy at the time.

And that name -- which is a great name -- came up. And I said: "no, I love the name" -- because in truth what Sundance really is is a ritual. It's a Native American ritual that owes to the Plains Indians. It's a ceremonial. And there is a place called Sundance, Wyoming. And so I said I liked the name, and also you can translate it to what this place looks like when you go up to the top of the mountain, particularly in the wintertime -- the sun does seem to bounce off the top of the peaks all around you in the Wasatch range.

And "sun" is -- has got a lot of symbolism. It makes a lot of sense in a lot of different ways. But I'm playing a character called the Sundance Kid, and I don't want to be -- I don't want to go that way 'cause it'll look like I'm ripping off the film just to get a name for Sundance.

So I argued with the -- with the other investors. And they overruled me because the other names weren't very good and they said that I wasn't objective and that it was stupid and that it was a great name. So I gave into that, but that was not what I wanted.

GROSS: Do you remember any of the names you wanted?

REDFORD: Yeah, I wanted "Mr. Redford's Place."


GROSS: Right.

REDFORD: You know, I can't remember now what it was. But it wasn't as good as Sundance. I have to agree that it's a very good name and through the years now, maybe in time, that that film be forgotten to the point -- at least as it relates to the name.

GROSS: Well, you're not only preparing for the Sundance Film Festival, you're also editing your next movie, The Horse Whisperer. Can you give us a little preview of it?

REDFORD: Well, it's a -- obviously from a -- well, you know, bestselling novel. It had the two strongest ingredients that I think filmmaking should have, at least from my point of view, and that is a good story and strong character development. So it had that. It also was intriguingly incorporating two -- two different parts of the country, east and west, and meshing them in a way that I found interesting and attractive, from a kind of sociological standpoint.

And it's got tradition in it. It's got history in it, even though it's dying -- that tradition and that history is dying a rather quick death of late. But there's that. And so, it had enough elements that were very attractive to me. It was a -- and also, it was the first time I was going to be acting and directing and producing, so that was a -- I had mixed feelings about that. I still do.

GROSS: What's the most difficult or problematic aspect of it?

REDFORD: Well, I think that probably maybe to do it successfully, and I don't mean just to be successful commercially with it, but successful within yourself, you're better off having more of a business approach to it. I don't. I -- I'm one kind of actor and I'm another kind of director. They don't -- I'm not sure how well they mix.

GROSS: What -- what's the difference between your style?

REDFORD: Well, the difference is that as an actor, I've always liked giving up to the process -- giving over to the process, meaning not just giving into the experience of being with someone else and being in the moment and acting and getting lost in it; and not being aware of the camera; not being aware of peripheral elements and so forth. I've always, you know, had a lot of pride in being able to concentrate and focus through all that.

And so that puts you in a very singular mode where you're not aware of the environment you're in. You're lost in the moment that's being called for.

As a director, I think probably there's more of me operating that was an artist -- that was me as the artist, where you look at something and you see the whole picture. Even though you might center in on a particular focus, you are looking at all things at the same time. You're on multiple tracks. I find that very appealing and I like the idea of controlling that environment to make the point you want to make; paint the picture you want to paint; tell the story you want to tell.

So that -- that sometimes runs in conflict with the other impulse of acting.

GROSS: That makes a lot of sense. You know, but obviously you went through with it.

REDFORD: I did. God loves a plugger.

GROSS: Robert Redford -- he spoke with us from the editing room where he's completing his adaptation of The Horse Whisperer.

The Sundance Film Festival, which he founded, begins Thursday.

Dateline: Terry Gross, Philadelphia
Guest: Robert Redford
High: Actor, director, and founder of the Sundance Institute Robert Redford. He discusses his work in films and his work promoting independent films, with the festival he founded, the Sundance Film Festival. The Festival begins next week, January 15 through 25 in Park City, Utah.
Spec: Movie Industry; Robert Redford; Business; Independents; Sundance Film Festival
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Robert Redford
Date: JANUARY 12, 1998
Time: 12:00
Tran: 011202NP.217
Head: Commercial Grammar
Sect: News; Domestic
Time: 12:55

TERRY GROSS, HOST: The tobacco trials of the last couple of years have focused a lot on the cigarette advertisements that used to run on TV, and how much responsibility the manufacturers bear for encouraging people to smoke.

The funny thing is that some of the ads were controversial when they first came out, but not for the same reason.

Our linguist Geoff Nunberg looks back to the controversies of the 1950s over the grammar of commercials.

GEOFF NUNBERG, FRESH AIR COMMENTATOR: The year was 1954. The top-rated TV show was "I Love Lucy," sponsored by Philip Morris, and close behind was "Your Hit Parade," sponsored by Lucky Strikes, whose "Be happy, go Lucky" jingle had won the TV Guide commercial of the year award. And Otto Pritchard (ph), a Pittsburgh carpenter with lung cancer, filed the first liability suit against a tobacco company.

In that year, R.J. Reynolds introduced its new brand "Winston," stressing taste rather than health, unlike other filter cigarettes. They ran a singing commercial with the tag line "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" -- "like" instead of "as."

As grammatical sins go, it was pretty venal, but the purists went to the mattresses over it. One critic called it "belligerent illiteracy." Another suggested that the writer who came up with the ad should be jailed. The Winston people were delighted with all the free publicity. They capitalized on the controversy in a new campaign that featured the slogan: "What do you want? Good grammar or good taste?"

And soon after that, Tareyton got into the act with a campaign headed: "Us Tareyton smokers would rather fight than switch." And the whole dance went 'round again over pronouns.

It was a curious episode. It certainly wasn't the first time advertisers had stooped to using popular usage to make a point. Fifty years earlier, the sides of barns all over the country were plastered with endorsements for Red Man chewing tobacco by the great Philadelphia second baseman Nap Lajoie: "Lajoie chews Red Man. Ask him if he don't."

But no critic ever deigned to notice this sort of thing until the '50s -- that golden age of American paranoia when Madison Avenue vied with Moscow as the insidious corrupter of American mores. That was when the martini-sipping adman in the gray flannel suit became the archetype of the American smoothie -- the character played by Tony Randall in "Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter?" and by Gig Young in just about everything else.

Maybe that's why the grammarians' criticisms of the advertisements echoed with charges of class treason -- the sense that all those Winston copywriters were really Yalies who knew perfectly well when to use "as" and when to use "like." As the redoubtable Jacques Barzin put it: "the language has less to fear from the crude vulgarism of the untaught than the blithe irresponsibility of the taught."

In retrospect, it's all quite ironical. Those cigarette ads do, indeed, sound a little sinister to us now, and of course they came back to haunt the companies that produced them. But the worst thing critics could find to say about them at the time was not that they were selling cigarettes, but only that they were doing it ungrammatically.

The advertisers are still playing fast and loose with the language, of course, but it's unlikely the Winston episode will ever repeat itself. In recent months, for example, the Toyota people have been running a campaign that stresses how well their products fit in with consumers' day to day needs. "Toyota everyday" is the slogan, but the "every day" is crammed together as a single word.

You'd think they'd worry it would suggest that their products are banal and ordinary, but the ad agency thought the one-word version looked zippier. And when they talked to consumer focus groups, it turned out that nobody was particularly troubled by the misspelling. People said they were used to seeing mistakes in advertising, and besides it made the company sound folksier.

Indeed, "folksy" is all you see in advertising nowadays. You think of those in-flight infomercials where guys in jeans and Doc Martens are touting the latest cool stuff from Hewlett-Packard and Motorola. Not long ago, in fact, Microsoft went to the ad agency that had done all those gen-X ads for Nike and asked for an ad series that would make them sound cool.

It bothered some people, like L.A. Times columnist Gary Chapman (ph), who took to task all those multinationals who appropriate a style and language that originates with the inner-city kids who will wind up being the losers in the information age.

It was a perfect reversal of the attacks that critics had leveled at the Winston people back in the '50s. The advertisers are still taxed for their linguistic condescension, but now their crime is not the betrayal of their own class, but of the people's whose language they're ripping off.

Well of course, advertisers are no less shameless now than they were back in the days of the singing commercial. What's surprising is only that people can still get indignant about it -- shocked -- shocked to find that there's advertising going on.

GROSS: Geoffrey Nunberg is a linguist at Stanford University and the Xerox-Palo Alto Research Center.

Dateline: Geoff Nunberg, Palo Alto; Terry Gross, Philadelphia
High: Linguist Geoff Nunberg on the controversies of the 1950s over the grammar of commercials.
Spec: Language; Grammar; Media; Commercials
Please note, this is not the final feed of record
Copy: Content and programming copyright 1998 WHYY, Inc. All rights reserved. Transcribed by FDCH, Inc. under license from WHYY, Inc. Formatting copyright 1998 FDCH, Inc. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to WHYY, Inc. This transcript may not be reproduced in whole or in part without prior written permission.
End-Story: Commercial Grammar
Transcripts are created on a rush deadline, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of Fresh Air interviews and reviews are the audio recordings of each segment.

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